Bilingual Children Better at Problem Solving

by ParentCo. February 08, 2016

A study conducted at Concordia University and published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology finds that bilingual toddlers are better able to find creative solutions to problems than toddlers who speak only one language. Switching between languages helps bilingual toddlers with conflict inhibition. Conflict inhibition allows us to set aside rules or behaviors that we've learned in order to find a different solution. My therapist would call this "compartmentalizing" but I guess you're off the hook on that if you're only two. WHATEVER, TODDLERS. By switching between languages, bilingual children have subconsciously learned that they'll have to step outside the rules of one language in order to access the other. Turns out this applies solving other problems as well. The researchers administered two tests:
  1. Reverse categorization — participants were told to put a set of little blocks into a little bucket and big blocks into a big bucket. Then the instructions were switched — big blocks in the little bucket and little blocks in the big bucket.
  2. Shape conflict — participants were shown pictures of different sized fruit and asked to name them. Then a new series of images was shown, with a small fruit embedded inside a large one. Toddlers were asked to point to the little fruit.
The bilingual children performed significantly better than did the monolingual participants. The benefits of conflict inhibition were amplified as the children grew older and gained mastery of their two languages. BTW, the whole point of this post is to make parents feel guilty for raising monolingual children. Like mine. Who, let's face it, are semi-lingual on a good day. Unless grunting is another language in which case, we're bilingual too.
Source: Fast Company, Science Direct



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